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An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

Parasitism is a dominant mode of life on the planet, and parasitic metazoan and protozoan eukaryotes cause some of the most damaging and intractable diseases of both man and his domestic animals. Malaria is a leading cause of mortality, killing a million children each year in sub-Saharan Africa alone, while other protozoan infections, and the parasitic worms that chronically infect a third of the world population, are important and widespread ‘neglected diseases’.

Parasites have diverse modes of transmission in disease endemic areas, many involving complex interactions between host, vector, parasite and environmental factors. As a result, the study of parasitic diseases is, historically, a multi-disciplinary scientific undertaking uniquely orientated towards poverty-associated infectious diseases of the developing world. This is reflected in the multi-faceted nature of parasite and parasitic disease research in many Cambridge academic departments and research institutes.


Studies on malaria range from structural and biochemical analysis of parasite cell binding proteins (Dept Biochemistry) to the pathophysiology of malaria-infected human red blood cells (Dept Physiology, Development & Neuroscience). Antigenic cartography methods used to predict viral antigenic evolution (Dept Zoology), and the effects of genetic polymorphisms that affect the function of down-regulatory Ig-receptors (Dept Medicine and CIMR), are both being tested on malaria in disease endemic areas of Kenya.


Major programmes on Trypanosomes (African sleeping sickness) focus on the parasite's cell surface architecture and post-translational gene expression regulation (Dept Biochemistry), and its molecular cell biology (Dept Pathology); while collaborative studies (Sanger Centre and Dept Pathology) are developing methods to integrate Toxoplasma gondii transcriptomic and metabolomic data to investigate basic host-parasite interactions. Phylogenetic molecular biology and genomic studies, involving the sexually transmitted protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis, are focused on such fundamental questions as how eukaryotic cells evolved from prokaryotic ancestors (Dept Pathology).

Human parasitic worm research includes:

  • long-term immuno-epidemiology studies of schistosomiasis in Kenya, Uganda and Mali
  • multi-disciplinary studies of the impact of malaria, schistosomiasis and hookworm co-infections on the health of African schoolchildren (Dept Pathology)
  • the impact of intestinal worms in rural Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea (Dept Biological Anthropology).
  • the remarkable potential of parasitic worms to protect against allergic and autoimmune diseases (Dept Pathology).

Parasite research in Cambridge benefits greatly from the Sanger Centre Eukaryote Pathogen Sequencing Unit's major protozoan parasite genome sequencing programme that includes Plasmodium, Babesia, Eimeria, Theileria, Toxoplasma, Entamoeba, Leishmania, and Trypanosoma. Its recently expanded parasitic worm programme has also produced high coverage reference genomes of Schistosoma, Echinococcus, Ascaris, Haemonchus, Nippostrongylus, Onchocerca, Strongyloides, Trichuris and Necator.


Dr James  Ajioka
Department of Pathology
Senior Lecturer in Molecular Parasitology
T. gondii genome sequence information to investigate basic properties of the host-parasite interaction.
Dr Matt  Berriman
Wellcome Sanger Institute
Matt leads the parasite genomics group who study the parasites that cause malaria and neglected tropical diseases.
Dr Andrew  Blagborough
Department of Pathology
Characterization of malarial transmission and the design of anti-parasitic transmission-blocking interventions
Dr Cinzia  Cantacessi
Department of Veterinary Medicine
Gastrointestinal helminths, host-parasite interactions, high-throughput sequencing technologies.
Dr Mark  Carrington
Department of Biochemistry
Molecular Cell Biology of Trypanosomes
+44 1223 333683
 Goylette   Chami
Department of Land Economy.
Economics of Infectious Disease including strategic epidemiology, social experiments, atefactual experiments, and mass drug administration for disease control.
Professor Pietro  Cicuta
Department of Physics
Salmonella infection of macrophages; bacterial adhesion in airways; P.falciparum (Malaria) egress and invasion in red blood cells; gene expression noise in E.coli; new phenotipic responses to antibiotics; microfluidics/single cell imaging.
Professor David  Dunne
Epidemiology and Immunology of Schistosomiasis and other Human Parasitic Diseases.
Dr Mara  Lawniczak
Group Leader: Vector-parasite interactions
We use genomic approaches to better understand mosquito populations and parasite transmission dynamics.
Dr. Paula  MacGregor
Principal Investigator
Department of Biochemistry
The molecular basis and evolution of host-parasite interactions in African trypanosomes.
 Ellen   Nisbet
Department of Biochemistry
Evolution of the Plasmodium apicoplast
Professor  Julian   Rayner
Cambridge Institute of Medical Research (CIMR)/Department of Medicine
High throughput approaches to understand the biology of malaria parasites and prioritise new drug and vaccine targets
 Gabriel   Rinaldi
Senior Staff Scientist, at Wellcome Sanger Institute
Development of functional genomic approaches for the blood flukes schistosomes, and the study of helminth-associated neoplasms
Dr Caroline  Trotter
Professor of Global Health, Department of Veterinary Medicine
Director of Cambridge-Africa, Department of Pathology
Honorary Epidemiologist at UKHSA
Fellow at Hughes Hall
 Ross   Waller
Molecular Cell Biology and Evolution of Apicomplexan Parasites
+44 (0)1223 766057
 Shona   Wilson
The immunology and epidemiology of human schistosomiasis
 Gavin  Wright
I am interested in extracellular receptor-ligand interactions for host-pathogen interactions and reverse vaccinology.